History of Music Timeline

  • 325


    Constantine declares Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. The spread of Christianity in the western world spurred the development of European music.
  • 600


    Pope Gregory the Great codifies and collects the chant, which is used in Roman Catholic services and is named the Gregorian chant in his honor.
  • 850


    Western music begins to move from monophony to polyphony with the vocal parts in church music moving in parallel intervals.
  • 1030


    Guido of Arezzo, an Italian monk, develops a system for learning music by ear. Voice students often use the system, called solfge, to memorize their vocal exercises. In the 19th century, solfge developed into the tonic sol-fa system used today.
  • 1180


    Troubadours appear in Germany and call themselves minnesingers.
  • 1430


    The Renaissance begins. This rebirth favors the simplistic virtues of Greek and Roman Classic styles, moves from polyphony to one harmonized melody and sees the increased importance and popularity of secular music. Josquin Desprez, often called the Prince of Music, is a leading composer of the Renaissance. He worked for ducal courts in Italy and France, at the Sistine Chapel and for kings Louis XI and Louis XII.
  • 1562


    In Pope Pius IV's Counter-Reformation, he restores church music to its pure vocal form by eliminating all instruments except the organ, any evidence of secularism, harmony, and folk melody. Giovanni Da Palestrina satisfies the pope's rigid requirements and creates a new spiritual style that legend says saved polyphony when he writes Pope Marcellus Mass, his most famous and enchanting piece.
  • 1565


    In Italian music, castration emerges as a way of preserving high male singing voices. St. Paul's dictum prohibited women from singing on stage and in churches. The practice becomes commonplace by 1574.
  • 1588

    The English Madrigal School is firmly established. The movement, led by Thomas Morley, produces some of the most delightful secular music ever heard. Madrigals often told stories of love or grief.
  • 1590-1604

    A group of musicians and intellectuals gather in Count Giovanni de Bardi's Camerata (salon) and discuss and experiment with music drama. It is during this period that opera is born. Jacopo Peri's Dafne, the first Italian opera, is produced in 1598 and in Euridice in 1600.
  • 1600

    The Baroque period, characterized by strict musical forms and highly ornamental works, begins in Europe. This period signals the end of the Renaissance.
  • 1882

    The Berlin Philharmonic is established.
  • 1890

    Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty debuts in St. Petersburg
  • 1908

    A major change in classical-music style comes about with the release of Arnold Schoenberg's Book of Hanging Gardens. The harmony and tonality characteristic of classical music is replaced by dissonance, creating what many listeners consider to be noise.
  • 1919

    After moving from its southern rural roots, jazz establishes Chicago as its capital. The city will become home to such jazz greats as trumpeter Louis Armstrong and pianist Jelly Roll Morton.
  • 1936

    Electric guitars debut.
  • 1942

    Bing Crosby releases "White Christmas," from the film Holiday Inn. The song goes on to be the all-time, top-selling song from a film.
    RCA Victor sprays gold over Glenn Miller's million-copy-seller Chattanooga Choo Choo, creating the first "gold record."
  • 1958

    Billboard debuts its Hot 100 chart. Ricky Nelson's "Poor Little Fool" boasts the first No. 1 record.
    Elvis Presley is inducted into the U.S. Army (March 24).
  • 1982

    Michael Jackson releases Thriller, which sells more than 25 million copies, becoming the biggest-selling album in history.
  • 1998

    Legendary crooner Frank Sinatra dies of a heart attack at age 82.